UPDATE, July 4, 2013
Japanese officials say objections to its scientific whaling program
are based on moral arguments, not legal ones. Australia cannot win
this case, Japanese officials say, because the international treaty
allows for scientific whaling and it allows member countries to
determine for themselves what qualifies as science.
This legal position is explained in a story written by Andrew
Darby published in yesterday’s
Sydney Morning Herald.
A later story by Darby, published in
today’s Herald, reports on the surprising testimony by a
witness called by the Japanese government. The witness, a Norwegian
expert named Lars Walloe, described several problems he had with
the Japanese research, but he confirmed that it was research.
Whether Japan’s annual whale hunt is a true scientific endeavor
or a commercial operation without legal justification is the
question being debated before the United Nations highest court this
Australia, supported by New Zealand, brought the case against
Japan to the International Court of Justice, which is holding
hearings in The Hague, Neatherlands.
Australia hopes to bring Japan’s whaling activities under normal
prescriptions from the International Whaling Commission, as opposed
to the ongoing scientific permits issued by the Japanese government
that allow for hundreds of whales to be killed each year.
Bill Campbell, Australia’s agent to the court, addressed the
16-judge panel in the Great Hall of Justice, according to a report
by Mike Corder of
The Associated Press.
“Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab
coat of science,” he said, later telling reporters, “You don’t kill
935 whales in a year to conduct scientific research. You don’t even
need to kill one whale to conduct scientific research.”
Japan, which will present its side next week, has stated that it
will challenge the court’s authority to hear the case while
justifying its whaling operations under international whaling
“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch,” begins Judge Alex
Kozinski, launching into a scathing ruling against Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, which the judge calls a “pirate”
Kozinski, chief judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,
concluded in a ruling today that U.S. District Judge Richard Jones
had made “numerous, serious and obvious errors” when he declined to
issue an injunction against Sea Shepherd for its high-seas battle
against Japanese whalers.
The three-judge panel ordered that the case be removed from
Jones’ jurisdiction and turned over to another Seattle district
judge drawn at random.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Cetacean Research — the Japanese
whaling organization — continues its effort to get a
contempt-of-court citation issued against Sea Shepherd, which has
increased its efforts to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Southern
Sea Shepherd remains under a U.S. Court of Appeals injunction,
which requires that the organization’s ships operate safely and
stay 500 yards away from the Japanese vessels.
I’ll provide an update on Sea Shepherd’s activities in a
separate blog post, but let me first tell you more about Kozinski’s
ruling (PDF 238 kb), which finds nothing commendable about any
of Sea Shepherd’s actions.
A dramatic video that shows Japan’s March 12 tsunami from ground
level has received a lot of attention on YouTube, probably because
of its shock value. Our hearts go out to the Japanese people.
Meanwhile, I believe this video can offer important insights for
those of us who live or visit ocean communities on the West Coast,
such as Ocean Shores.
How much time would we have to get to higher ground after an
earthquake? The video shows the water level rising rapidly, as the
photographer goes up a stairway to get to higher ground. At the end
of the video, six minutes in, the serenity of the street has been
turned into chaos.
While I worry about coastal communities, where a tsunami is a
likely threat, I’m also concerned about waterfront residents and
visitors along the Puget Sound shoreline. Although the chance of a
tsunami in Puget Sound may be less than on the coast, one could be
triggered by an earthquake on the numerous faults
that run through the sound, including the Seattle, Tacoma and
South Whidbey faults. Earthquakes also may cause massive landslides
that can create big waves when hitting the water.
Unbridled joy has overtaken crews on three Sea Shepherd vessels
as they celebrate a Japanese surrender from whaling in the
Antarctic this year — and possibly for all time.
“Everybody is overjoyed, laughing and crying and hugging,” said
Izumi Stephens, who is serving aboard the Steve Irwin, one of the
three vessels harassing the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern
I spoke to Izumi by satellite phone after the Japanese
government announced an end to whaling a month early this year.
(See story by Martin Fackler in the
New York Times Global Edition.) Japanese analysts are now
speculating that whaling in the Southern Ocean may never resume,
because of the costs, challenges and changes in the market for
“We think the entire thing could be finishing,” Izumi said of
Antarctic whaling efforts. “This may be the last year in the
Southern Ocean for everybody.”
Check out recent stories in the Japanese news organization
Yomiuri Online, one of which includes this statement:
“In addition to Sea Shepherd’s acts of sabotage, low domestic
demand for whale meat — which used to be a valuable source of
protein during the food-scarce postwar years — also has made the
prospect of continuing whaling extremely gloomy, officials
Izumi, if you recall, is a Japanese woman who lives on
Bainbridge Island. After her husband died, she became committed to
opposing the killing of dolphins and whales. She joined Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society in November as a Japanese-language
translator and has spent the past three months involved in the
high-seas campaign against the Japanese whalers. See Water Ways for
Jan. 14 and
The so-called surrender has become big news in Japan, and Izumi
has taken calls from Japanese reporters and conversed in her native
“I’ve told them that this is a big, big victory, a big victory
for the whales. We are not against the Japanese people or the
Japanese government. We are against the whalers…. We are not
terrorists; we are just intervening against the commercial
Through the Internet, Izumi has been keeping up with numerous
Japanese news reports and blogs, where she has found herself under
“People in Japan are mad at me. They call me a traitor to my
Izumi is the first Japanese translator for Sea Shepherd to make
her identity known to the public. During taping for the television
show “Whale Wars,” she has not covered her face or kept her name
secret, as previous Japanese translators have done. The revalation
of a possible end to whaling in the Antarctic has raised her
profile more than she anticipated.
“I never expected that it would be like this final end,” she
She had imagined that the whaling season would end, as usual, in
March and she would return home to her family. Then she would have
all summer to decide if she should do it again. Instead, the
“Japanese surrender” a month early — with uncertain prospects for
the future — has created a media blitz and new level of anger in
“I can see in the newspapers that people are really mad,” she
said. “My face is coming up on Japanese TV.”
The Japanese whaling organization, known as the Institute of
Cetacean Research, consistently calls Sea Shepherd an eco-terrorist
organization. The group regularly complains that Sea Shepherd’s
flagship countries, Australia and the Netherlands, fail to take
action for acts of “terrorism and harassment,” including
bombardment with glass projectiles, smoke bombs and “incendiary
devices.” The latest reports talked about the use of lasers aimed
at the whaling ships. See ICR new releases.
According to the report in Daily
Yomiuri Online, the processing ship Nisshin Maru was unable to
shake off the faster Sea Shepherd vessels Bob Barker and
Capt. Paul Watson, who directs Sea Shepherd, said the ability of
his ships to stay with the whaling fleet made all the difference in
this year’s success in minimizing the number of whales killed.
Scroll down to the bottom of this entry to view the on-board video
that Watson issued Saturday.
Yomiuri story quoted anonymously a high-ranking ministry
official, who outlined four options for continued whaling:
Have the whaling fleet escorted by Japan Coast Guard vessels or
others, an idea discussed in 2007 but scrapped for lack of escort
Build new whaling vessels capable of traveling at high speed,
an idea considered “almost impossible” because of costs.
Replace research whaling with commercial whaling, an idea that
lacks support from other countries.
Continue current whaling arrangements, which has proven to be
costly and difficult given the interference of Sea Shepherd.
Izumi said none of the options seems likely, but one never
Another issue faced by the Japanese, she told me, is the success
of the television show “Whale Wars,” which has brought notoriety
and donations to the anti-whaling cause. The Japanese government
may be concerned that Sea Shepherd will use its new-found clout to
bring more attention to the decline of blue fin tuna (See Operation Blue Rage)
and to the slaughter of dolphins
in Taiji, Japan, and other places around the world.
For now, Izumi is eager to get home to Bainbridge Island.
“I am really homesick,” she told me. “I want to squeeze my kids
and pet my dogs and maybe take a nice hot shower. Yes, a long
“I have a crew of 88 very happy people from 23 different nations
including Japan and they are absolutely thrilled that the whalers
are heading home and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is now
indeed a real sanctuary.”
The Steve Irwin is scheduled to meet up with the Bob Barker and
return to Hobart, Australia. Izumi hopes to fly back home to the
Puget Sound region on March 10.
A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea
Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling
fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in
today’s Kitsap Sun.
A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter
for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd
has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as
well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.
If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea
Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet,
often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front,
behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.
Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from
Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against
whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from
his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling
ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar
Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an
ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters
is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson
frequently returns to this region. (more…)